The Herbarium of St Petersburg University is one of the oldest in Russia. It is included into all the world catalogues and bulletins of herbariums under the acronym LECB. It dates back to 1823 when Gustav Bongard was invited to the University to teach botany.

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Today, the herbarium is a unique collection both from historical and scientific points of view. It has an unmatched range of items of a large geographical coverage and systematic scope as well as a typical herbarium specimen and library. The collections comprise no less than 800,000 herbarium sheets of higher plants. Part of those are systemised and make up the collections (approximately 300,000 sheets), the other bigger part (approximately 400,000 items) is unsorted and is stored in different separate collections. The herbarium of lower plants (seaweed, lichens, fungi) are stored separately.

The Herbarium dates back to 1823 when Gustav Bongard was invited to the University to teach botany. He put a lot of effort into creating and developing the Department of Botany, and handed his herbarium collection that comprised 13,000 samples over to the University. That was the basis for the creation of the Herbarium. Thanks to the efforts of the experts and the students of the Department, it was later turned into a large and respectable collection of samples of higher and lower plants. By 1836, the Herbarium comprised 13,000 sheets, 7,000 species and 4,000 samples of seeds from all over the world. Among the collectors of the samples that belonged to Gustav Bongard, two names stand out.

The first is Johann von Böber (1746-1820). It was his herbarium that was acquired first by the University for the ‘Botanical Cabinet’ and complemented Bongard’s own herbarium. It comprised 6,783 plant species. Apart from this sample, the collection of Bongard comprises more than 1,000 sheets that belonged to Carl Willdenow (1765-1812). In Russia such samples can only be found in Komarov Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and in the Moscow University Herbarium (under the acronym MW).  Also, there are Bongard’s own holotype samples.

In the early 1840s, the Herbarium was greatly enriched with the personal collections of the head of the Department of Botany Ivan Shikhovskii as well as duplicates from the Academy of Sciences. In 1842, the collection comprised 15,000 samples. The Herbarium expanded between 1863 and 1896, when Andrey Beketov (1825-1902) was the head of the

Department of Botany. Special rooms were set aside to house the Herbarium, where it still is today. The new rooms gave the possibility to expand the collection significantly.

There was further research and collection of material for the Herbarium on the territory of the North-West region of Russia (Leningrad, Pskov, Novgorod, Arkhangelsk, Vologda Regions and Komi Republic). This enabled the acquisition of a large amount of material from these regions.